Janesville72.1°

La Prairie wants to turn gravel pit into park

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ANN MARIE AMES
April 9, 2008
— A pair of wood ducks splashed Tuesday into the shallow pond at the bottom of the Tiffany Pit.

In a week or two, frogs will fill the pit with their spring songs.


The frogs and ducks don’t mind the rough, gravelly landscape or the occasional broken pallet or discarded tire.


Neither does La Prairie Town Board Chairman Mike Saunders.


“I see some real potential here,” Saunders said.


The town of La Prairie has offered to buy the 18-acre pit from Rock County for $100 with the intent of turning it into a park. The pit is located north of Lader’s Tiffany Feed & Supply, 5821 E. Townline Road, in the unincorporated community of Tiffany. An access road leads to the pit from Creek Road.


In an issue paper to The Rock County Public Works Committee, Public Works Director Ben Coopman recommends selling the pit.


Turning the pit into a park would work for La Prairie, Saunders said, since most of the land in the township is high-value, tillable farmland.


“Parkland is going to become a rarer and rarer commodity,” Saunders said. “We don’t have a lot of land that would fit for a park in La Prairie.”


The town’s offer to purchase indicates the town would not sell or develop the property for a profit. The town would take over the county’s access agreements with Union Pacific Railroad.


The rail line to Chicago runs from the northwest to the southeast along the southern edge of the pit, protecting it from urban pressure on that side, Saunders said.


On the northern edge of the pit, natural buffers and an oak savannah grow between the pit and nearby farms.


The pit has been mined out and has not been in use for many years, Saunders said. Occasionally, the county uses the pit as a staging area or to store construction rubble.


If the public works committee is interested in selling the Tiffany Pit, staff would work on a resolution, Coopman said. The resolution would need approval of the full county board.


If the county agrees to the sale, the town would host a public information session to find out what taxpayers would like the pit to become, Saunders said.


ALL PITS MUST HAVE PLAN

The 45 sand, gravel or clay pits operating in Rock County must have a plan to reclaim the land.


La Prairie Township has seven active sites—the most in the county. Harmony, Bradford and Fulton townships tie for second with four each.


Rock County enacted its reclamation ordinance in 2001, said planner and conservation specialist Andrew Baker. The county does not have a record of pits that went out of business before 2001, he said.


Baker works in the county’s planning and conservation departments, where he oversees reclamation plans in the county’s towns, villages and cities.


The plans usually include definitions of soil types, mining techniques and the pit’s proximity to wetlands and water bodies. Plans should include how the company will spread topsoil over the pit and reseed it and how the steepest slopes will be made safer.


The county prefers mining companies to reclaim as they go whenever possible, Baker said.


COUNTY PITS

Rock County owns two inactive gravel pits:


-- The 18-acre Tiffany Pit in La Prairie Township, which the town is interested in buying from the county.


-- The 60-acre Kuffer Pit located behind the Rock County Public Works Department near Newville Road and Highway 14.


The Kuffer Pit has not been mined since 1991. The county sometimes uses it to store equipment or materials. Sheriff’s deputies have used the pit for target practice.


In 2004, county staff submitted a reclamation plan that included a combination of recreational, cultural and natural resources for the site. Uses included an outdoor theater, dog park, multi-use trails, storm water detention and a sledding area.


In March, county planning staff included the Kuffer Pit in the “most favorable” of its six hypothetical options for relocating the 18.5-acre landlocked Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds. The fairgrounds would fit with the recreational nature of the reclamation plan, planning Director Scott Heinig said.


WHAT’S NEXT

The town of La Prairie’s offer to buy the Tiffany Pit will be considered by the Rock County Public Works Committee at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in the committee meeting room at the Rock County Public Works Department, 3715 Newville Road, Janesville.



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